How David Bowie (8.1.1947-10.1.2016) changed the murderous postwar culture

David Bowie, shooting his video for Rebel Rebel in AVRO's TopPop (Dutch television show) in 1974 - CC BY-SA 3.0


Wer im grauen Nachkriegs-England aus der Reihe tanzte, wurde brutal niedergemacht. ED2000, geboren 1957, schildert, wie ihm David Bowie als Ziggy Stardust ihm als Teenager das Gefühl gab, das es genau richtig ist anders zu sein.

Corin Arnold von Nika RadicToday people think differently. Or at least i’d like to believe so. Being born in 1957, I am part of a generation that knows two very different social behaviours when it comes to personal freedom and how one may or is able to express themselves. I have experienced living in an environment where someone I knew was murdered because he was “one of those”. Where someone I knew was considered worthless and treated as such because she clearly understood a lot about the important things in life, much earlier and much more than a few who were very keen to get their hands on her, and then join in with the condemnations. It wasn’t that I disagreed or debated or protested – it was more that a deep inner conviction that this was wrong, became stronger and more somehow sure of itself.

My stepfather shouted: „What the fuck is that?“

I clearly remember how good it felt when I invited my stepfather to watch my favourite act David Bowie who was about to appear on TV and play a song called „Jean Genie“. I was very happy when he agreed to watch it with me. I somehow wanted him to like what I liked, as much as I liked his Tamla Motown records. I wanted him to acknowledge that I had something to offer as well. That I was also cool. He didn’t react as I had wished for, or as I had feared he may do if he wasn’t impressed. When he almost but not quite shouted “What the fuck is that?” He was angry, shocked, dismissive and seemingly disturbed by Bowies appearance, confidence and attitude. He warned me that I would turn funny if I watched rubbish like that, laughed mockingly and left the room. Unexpectedly I wasn’t dissapointed,  it felt good. Not how I had wanted it to feel good, or for the reasons I had wanted. I enjoyed the fact that it had freaked him out, and that my deep inner conviction had taken “this is right” on board as well.

That this conviction was a new reality for millions. It wasn’t clear to me at this point, I was 14. Like many before me and many after me, I was empowered by my being wrong actually being very right, and by knowing that the louder the cries against what I supported were becoming, the bigger my world seemed to become.

David Bowie empowered me by my being wrong actually being very right

When I got to see my hero David Bowie live, the first time in Brighton at the Dome, the second in Torquay Town Hall on the „Ziggy Stardust“ UK tour, I was initiated into yet another world where sensual overload somehow facilitated awakening, awareness of new feelings, ideas, possibilities, horizons, as yet unformed and unfocused possible futures. I had never been with such a large number of people who all seemed to share the same convictions although that was never said by anyone. It wasn’t necessary to say anything. It was obvious and didn’t merit discussion, because here we all were celebrating it and where it had led us to. I had never seen so many orange Bowie cuts or been in a situation where that really nice girl I had noticed, came over and said Hello and it seemed like we had been friends forever. I saw so many people with earings, it hadn’t mattered whether it was a boy or a girl, or whether the boy or girl was with a boy or a girl, everything and everyone looked really great, and I wanted in. Even the guys who would be considered more at home on the terraces in pursuit of enemy fans, and who could be pretty scary sometimes, even they had earings on, a sign of their being a part of it all. I got my ear pierced a few days later.

A space was created. In this space it was okay to be yourself, no one was going to threaten your peace because you looked different. No one you knew would be murdered because of their feelings and who they had those feelings for. And if that girl who came over and said „hello“ with a big beaming smile knew more than you did about some things, she wasn’t considered a lesser being or made a social outcast because of it. She was the reason you had the best day of your life so far, you knew it, she knew you knew it.

David Bowie’s performances in the 1970s gave a preview of the disruption of repressive values to come 20 years later

With the benefit of hindsight what was happening was a proto version of what happened when rave brought all social, economic, and class values crashing down nearly 20 years later. This singer with this attitude, heralded and evoked a new era of tolerance, acceptance and respect for each persons birth right to determine who they are and how they live. It was 20 years ahead of rave that is accredited with having caused the end of out of control viscous and increasingly co-ordinated football hooliganism in UK.

As well it was where the first signs of a cultural fusion occured between immigrant communities and white Britain. It was too early for a multiracial multicultural happening, that came years later, but a lot of the kids into Bowie were also soul and ska freaks. My music collection spanned ska, Motown, soul and glam rock: T-Rex, Slade and  Bowie. The barriers that had seemed to exist if you liked one kind of music or another suddenly were not there anymore. There was something here that we all identified with.

David Bowie encouraged the celebration of difference rather than its suppression

The Glam era was for me, and I believe for many many people, a liberation from the chains of consensus reality fear, bigotry and violence. It was an affirmation of what we all knew but needed someone we could trust and admire to get up and say it for us. After David Bowie, it was okay to be gay, straight, bisexual – it didn’t matter. It was your thing. Difference was celebrated rather than attacked. When the establishment owned media set about trying to pigeonhole, discredit and bring all of this back under its control, they couldn’t. When asked for the umpteenth time about his own personal way of life, Bowie answered, “I’m try-sexual, i will try anything”. When I read this I began to understand the extent of this artists understanding and capabilities, i was like all my peers, further empowered, and slowly the establishment backed of and started to also celebrate his talent. If you can’t beat them, join them, or get them to join you.

What I gained from all of this was not always about the subject matter of songs and statements. It was more an awakening of an awareness of what had actually birthed all of this. Where all of this came from began to come into focus. Hidden knowledge gradually became revealed. I began to understand and believe that everything is possible. That no one has the right to assert control over anothers personal freedom and that as with any other subcultural wave that is really what it says it is, as with the hippies and later with rave, it is “All about love!”

ED2000 aka Corin Arnold kam in den 1980ern nach Berlin und ist seitdem als Radio-Moderator, DJ und Labelinhaber (Dangerous Drums) tätig. Neben Big Beat bespielte er in den 1990ern mit Chill Out und Elektronik die Floors der großen Clubs. Er wohnt bis heute in einer Künstlerkommune in Berlin-Mitte.

(Foto: David Bowie, wikicommons (CC BY-SA 3.0) / ED2000 – Nika Radic)

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